Between June and August this year, 21.57 million foreign tourists spent their holidays in Spain. That is a 3 percent rise over the maximum registered during the same months in 2007, back when the world finances apparently were a brighter place –or mostly unaware of the extent of the crisis that was about to enter on stage in a spectacular fashion.
In July, observers took the 7.7 million arrivals as a record, but this figure was surpassed in August with 7.86 million visitors. Under so much pressure elsewhere, this is one of the few industry sectors that the Spanish economy can hold on to: from January to August, the country has attracted 40.7 million foreign tourists, which means a 3 percentage point growth over last year and only 0.23 percent below 2007's levels.
Analysts in Madrid welcome this news. It looks as though international activity can effectively offset the noticeable depression of the domestic demand.
According to Frontur, British visits increased in 4.7 percent, while both France and Germany brought two-digit numbers (17.5 percent and 13 percent). Russians, who represent only 2.8 percent of all foreign tourists, visited Spain as never before with a 47.5 percent rise.
If only other economic engines could count on such powerful support behind them as the Mediterranean weather, the Spanish government would surely build a sounder case against the national bailout option.
No wonder Isabel Borrego, state secretary for Tourism, declared last week that the VAT rise from 8 percent to 10 percent was a “temporary measure.” Madrid should be afraid, indeed, of damaging one of the lungs that still injects oxygen in the economy.